Third party downloads triggered by viewing Google AdSense

Several days ago, reports starting coming through about people being prompted to download third party applications on pages containing AdSense, prompting publishers to receive complaints from site visitors about the warnings of applications trying to auto-install. The applications, including Apple QuickTime Video, Adobe Acrobat, Flash, and Media Player 2, was triggered by a line of code contained within the javascript code.

var plugins=new Array(“image/svg-xml”, “application/x-director”, “application/x-shockwave-flash”, “audio/x-pn-realaudio-plugin”, “video/quicktime”, “application/x-mplayer2”, “application/pdf”)

The problem first came to light on WebmasterWorld (free registration required to view), although the problem did not seem to be widespread, either dependent an individual user’s current installed applications or perhaps if the issue wasn’t accross all AdSense servers/datacenters.

Four days after the problem was first reported, AdSenseAdvisor confirmed that there was an issue with the AdSense ad code prompting users to download third party applications and that the problem has been fixed.

Thanks for bringing this to our attention. We encountered some technical issues that caused some visitors using IE to see download prompts for third-party add-ons or plug-ins. Our engineers resolved the issue right away, so ad serving is now back to normal.
Don’t worry — all clicks and impressions have been recorded as usual. We’re sorry for any inconvenience, and grateful for your patience during this time.


The issue was only seen by those users who were running Internet Explorer (both versions 6 and 7) when viewing the AdSense ads. There have been sporadic reports after AdSenseAdvisor posted where users are still prompted to download third party applications, but clearing the IE cache solved the problem. The offending part of the javascript has been removed from the show_ads.js script now.

This is a pretty significant problem, and I am surprised it took so long after it was first noticed to be corrected. I am guessing not very many of the AdSense team use IE, or they have every plugin imaginable already installed 😉

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6 comments to Third party downloads triggered by viewing Google AdSense

  • vahid

    Hi , I wanna ask you ads in this page ( put image inside ads )
    is there any problem for YNP to put image inside ads ? plz explain this problem .

  • Just seeing if I can comment in your blog, for some reason I can not. Test.

  • me

    Isnt it funny that all the programs it tried to install are programs that the Google toolbar is bundled with?

    Seems like Google likely did this on purpose- since all those programs have the check box default to “yes” to install the toolbar (which means 99.99% of users will not change it, and thus get the toolbar with those applications) this was simply a sneaky way for Google to get the toolbar installed on millions of machines.

    Basically, anyone who has been using internet explorer and surfs the web over the last week has been hit by this “small problem”..

    There is absolutely no way this was any kind of accident. This was intentional action by Google. Great to know that “Don’t be evil” doesnt extend to adware being injected into hundreds of millions of PC users worldwide.

    I like how their BS response says “it was only seen by people using IE 6 or 7” .. when that makes up 90% of the entire browser market!

    Google has hit a new low. For shame.

  • dyerwolf

    Google is a great search engine, if you are looking old out dated information.

  • me

    check out this site.. it’s one of Google’s premier partners, or high traffic sites. they are allowed to remove the “ads by google” logo from their ads, which results in much higher clickthroughs. they are also allowed by the adsense team to completely obscure what is an ad, and what is just a link. i CHALLENGE any of you to find the actual definition that is looked up by the following query. hint- it’s buried, surrounded by ads, that look exactly like the rest of the page.

    in the end, this was the secret to google’s success. make ads look like links, but make them relevant enough that people wont get mad when they mistakenly click on an ad. and that simple scam is currently worth 120 billion dollars on wall street. well, at least for now- it’ll be halved before the year is out.

  • Actually “me”, those are not Google AdSense ads, they are being served by Yahoo / Overture.

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